Published on November 9th, 2013 | by Staples Soccer0
State Tournament Quarterfinal vs. Xavier: Game Report
The Wreckers rode great momentum from the past 2 state tournament matches — a pair of 1-0 wins over Norwalk and Newtown — into tonight’s quarterfinal.
The site was Oakwood Soccer Park — Xavier’s home field this year. It’s 20 minutes from the Middletown high school, and lacks a scoreboard, clock and real bleachers. Spectators ringed the field, like back in the 1970s. Staples — thanks in part to a fan bus — had many more (or at least far louder) fans than the Falcons.
The absence of Jack Scott from the starting lineup did not slow the visitors down. The co-captain injured his foot during the Newtown match. He finished that game on pure adrenaline, but today he felt it. Yet it would take more than that to keep Scott off the field. He came on after 10 minutes, played the rest of the contest, and provided spark and speed.
Though the 17-0-4, #2-seeded hosts were favored against the 12-5-2, #10 Wreckers, the match was evenly played. Staples kept the ball on the ground well, finding feet and seams to keep pressure on for long periods. The Falcons were good at switching sides through midfield. They favored long balls over the top. But the newly configured back line of Connor Weiler — playing only his 3rd game since a long hamstring pull, in the center — and Andrew Puchala (still not 100% after 2 injuries) and Gabe Pensak (recently returned from a concussion) — was smart and strong. They stepped up when they needed to, dropped together, and kept Xavier at bay for long stretches.
Though the Wreckers worked diligently on set pieces in training, they squandered a few opportunities. Xavier cashed in on one of theirs, 8 minutes after halftime. A long shot by Brendan Butler from the left side caromed off the underside of the crossbar. It rebounded directly to the foot of Joey Zacchia, who finished from close range.
“They’re going to be coming right at you!” head coach Brian Fitzgerald yelled to his side — and Staples did. The Wreckers fought as hard as they have all year — which is saying a lot. The Falcons, meanwhile, maintained a good balance between defending their lead, and going forward enough to keep Staples honest.
The Wreckers had 2 golden opportunities in the final 10 minutes. One was set up by great work from Joe Pravder and Yousef Shahin; the other was an excellent cross. Both times, Staples did not finish.
And — after what seemed an interminable time to Xavier — the game was over. So was Staples’ season. It was a crushing end to a year highlighted by tremendous excitement, fantastic chemistry and camaraderie, and an exciting post-season run.
“Soccer can be a cruel game,” said head coach Dan Woog. “Our guys feel that, because they did not win a championship, they did not accomplish their goals. But in a way, they accomplished something more. They learned so much about themselves, about working hard, about commitment to themselves and each other, and about the joy (and heartache) of a journey like this.
“Trophies are awesome. We love them. But trophies fade. They collect dust. What’s in our players’ hearts will never die.”
Woog praised the senior class for their superb leadership. “They’ve set an unbelievable standard for all who follow,” he noted. “They leave an awesome legacy.” FINAL SCORE: Xavier-Middletown 1, Staples 0. FINAL RECORD: 12-6-2.
QUICK KICKS: Andrew Puchala left the match with 10 minutes to go, after dislocating his elbow….
In other LL action today, #1 Greenwich defeated #8 Amity 2-0; #3 Ridgefield edged #6 Conard-West Hartford 2-1, and #4 Glastonbury came from behind to top #21 Danbury 3-2. That means the top 4 seeds all reached the semifinals….
Besides co-captains Scott and Diego Alanis, the Wreckers will graduate seniors Daniel Boyce, Andreas Bru, Foster Goldberg, Sebo Hood, Charlie Leonard, Sterling Price, James Rubin, Yousef Shahin, Steven Sobel and Connor Weiler.